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StarChefs.com 2008 New York Rising Stars






The New York Rising Stars and Why They Shine
By Heather Sperling with Antoinette Bruno and Will Blunt
August 2008

The 2008 Starchefs.com New York Rising Stars
Not Pictured: Anne Burrell, Josh Eden Photo: Jamie Tampo

Click here for more information about the New York Rising Stars Revue on
September 16th at the American Museum of Natural History

We tasted food, pastry, cocktails, and wine pairings from over 70 talented chefs, pastry chefs, mixologists and sommeliers across New York City, and only 13 of them earned the title of Rising Star. So what makes them shine? Creativity, ambition, exquisite presentation, and, most importantly, a delicious product win each up-and-coming culinary star the Rising Star Award. What’s more, each Rising Star has specific attributes that make us believe they will be the future leaders of the country’s culinary scene. Here’s an introduction to the 2008 New York award winners–who they are, why they shine, and how they’re shaping the future of American food.

CHEF: Anne Burrell, Centro Vinoteca

Anne Burrell is becoming a familiar face, and rightly so. The spunky Mario Batali/Lidia Bastianich protégée has made waves from her spot behind the stove at Centro Vinoteca (and on her new show, "Secrets of a Restaurant Chef" on Food Network). Centro is not just another rustic Italian joint; while her food satisfies in a classic rustic Italian way, it also excites with dishes like fennel pollen-crusted pork, braised oxtail cakes, and ravioli alla uovo, a large ravioli that oozes golden egg yolk and creamy ricotta. Her menu is rounded out by an assortment of piccolini, or Italian small bites, making it one of the most fun and exciting Italian menus in the city. What’s more, Burrell is truly a chefs’ chef–she’s spunky, driven, devoted to work, and passionate about food and the industry.

The Dishes that Clinched it:
- Raviolo alla Uovo: Ricotta and Egg Yolk-Stuffed Raviolo with Bacon Chips and Sage
- Fennel Pollen-Crusted Hampshire Pork Chop with Bacon, Swiss Chard, Baby Turnips, and Crispy Bacon Skin

CHEF: Josh Eden, Shorty’s .32

Josh Eden is a born and raised New Yorker who spent 12 years with Jean-Georges Vongerichten before taking a sharp turn and opening a small, unpretentious, no reservations restaurant bearing his nickname in the heart of Soho. Eden’s journey with Jean-Georges took him from New York (Jojo, 66 and Xing) to the Bahamas to open Dune, and back to New York. The food at Shorty’s is haute comfort, not because there are frills, but because it’s so mature and well-executed. A side dish as simple as garlic-tossed green beans is made superb through technique–they’re deep fried, shocked, and tossed with deep fried garlic. His pork Milanese is executed in a similarly exciting way–instead of a lemon wedge to provide the acidic tang, it’s finished a Thai chili-spiked passionfruit beurre noisette.

The Dishes that Clinched it:
- Sweet Pea Ravioli with Parmesan Broth, Baby Carrots and Fava Beans
- Pork Milanese with Pea Shoot and Radish Salad, Passion Fruit Beurre Noisette

CHEF: John Fraser, Dovetail


Fraser was at the helm of Compass and the West Village’s tiny and beloved Snack before opening Dovetail, his first go at being a chef/owner. The restaurant opened as a relatively humble affair–seasonal, refined, a la carte dining in an Upper West Side brownstone–and then the reviews started rolling in. Three stars from The New York Times and it was official: Fraser’s restaurant was one of the most refreshing and exciting in the city. His cuisine is descended from The French Laundry, where he worked for 2 years. High-quality seasonal ingredients and rock-solid technique form the foundation of dishes that are both clever and creative, like a giant raviolo of Dungeness crab with chorizo, edamame and lemon, and corned beef and cabbage gnocchi, which manages to capture all the homey charm of the dish in a sparse, pretty composition fitting of a white tablecloth dining room.

The Dishes that Clinched it:
- Crab Ravioli with Chorizo, Snow Peas, Lemon Butter Sauce, and Edamame
- Chopped Liver with Foie Gras, Duck Mousse, Quail Egg, and Black Pepper Gastrique

CHEF: Neil Ferguson, Allen & Delancey


Behind Ferguson’s unassuming façade lays some serious talent and experience in the kitchen. Ferguson trained and worked around London and France, starting at the 3-star Le Gavroche, and spending a year at Marc Meneau’s L’Esperance in Burgundy and Alain Passard’s L’Arpege in Paris. He joined Gordon Ramsay as a sous chef at his eponymous London restaurant, and went on to spend 4 years as head chef at the Ramsay/Angela Hartnett restaurant at The Connaught before coming stateside to open Gordon Ramsay at The London. Now at Allen & Delancey, Ferguson is bringing mature, refined cuisine to the Lower East Side, an area that was, until recently, not known for dishes like caramelized bone marrow with caviar, veal cannelloni with trotters and sweetbreads, or scallops with candied grapes and verjus.

The Dishes that Clinched it:
- Caramelized Bone Marrow with Caviar and Lemon Zest
- Colorado Lamb Chop Persillade, Braised Middle Neck, Potato Puree

CHEF: Yoshinori Ishii, Morimoto

Ishii is the chef behind Morimoto’s Omakase Bar, where diners go to put their dining experience in the hands of one of Japanese cuisine’s most recognizable experts. Ishii is more than equipped to run the show–he is a thoroughly modern Japanese chef, who combines classical training with a modern mentality influenced by his experiences around the world. Ishii went through extensive culinary training in Japan, studying at the famous Tsuji culinary school, working on an organic farm in Kyoto, and spending 9 years at the main restaurant of Kyoto Kitcho, where along with sashimi, Shohjin Ryori(vegetarian) and kaiseki (seasonal, tea service) cuisine, he studied flower arranging and ceramics. (At Morimoto he’s been known to serve fish he caught in Montauk on his handmade pottery, in fact.) Before joining forces with Morimoto, Ishii was chef-in-residence at the Japanese Embassy first in Geneva, and then in New York.

The Dishes that Clinched it:

- Homemade Yuba with Japanese Uni, Nasturtium, Caviar, and Umami-Wasabi Sauce
- Uzumi-Dofu, Maine Lobster, Homemade Tofu, White Rice, and Miso-Corn Soup

CHEF: Gavin Kaysen, Café Boulud

A fateful phone call–on his home line, no less–led Gavin Kaysen to his position as executive chef of Café Boulud. In 2005 he had taken time off as chef de cuisine of El Bizcocho in San Diego to stage at Daniel; this experience convinced him that he wanted to work for Boulud (and we can assume that Kaysen’s role as the US representative at the 2007 Bocuse d’Or convinced Boulud that he wanted Kaysen to work for him). Kaysen has had quite a year: he was named one of Food & Wine 2007 "Best New Chefs," and the James Beard Foundation’s 2008 "Rising Star of American Cuisine." And it’s no wonder–Kaysen is talented and ambitious, and well equipped to carry the Café Boulud torch into a new era. His kampachi crudo with butternut squash puree, ponzu, and crispy garlic is a dish that manages to combine disparate flavors and influences into one lively, flavorful bite.

The Dishes that Clinched it:

- Sashimi of Kampachi with Daikon Radish, Fried Garlic, Butternut Squash Puree and Ponzu
- Spaghetti Nero with Cuttlefish and Shrimp

HOTEL CHEF: Josh Emett, Gordon Ramsay at The London

Gordon Ramsay’s landing in New York was not the smoothest, but now, two years later, all is well at The London. As chef for the hotel’s outposts–the fine dining restaurant, the bar/lounge (Maze), and room service–Josh Emett continues the legacy of Ramsay’s elegant, modern food, and does so dexterously. Like Ramsay, his cuisine is creative with exciting textures and flavor combinations, and he runs his kitchen of 60 cooks with a firm hand (but not a fiery temper). Emett started with Ramsay in 2000; he came to New York in 2006, and just recently oversaw the opening of Gordon Ramsay in LA, where he’ll act as executive chef from afar. Emett’s dishes include stunning, precise presentations and clever techniques: monkfish medallions are wrapped in crisp chicken skin, and a foie gras terrine isn’t just coated in your basic gelatin–it’s topped with a fun-textured gelee of cider and tapioca.

The Dishes that Clinched it:
- Pressed Foie Gras with Candied Ginger and Tapioca and Calvados Jelly
- Roasted Monkfish Tail with Fennel Hearts, Baby Root Vegetables, Lemon Thyme, and Chicken Consommé

RESTAURATEUR: Jason Denton, ´ino, Lupa, ´inoteca, Bar Milano

Denton learned the restaurant and entertainment ropes from his Uncle Harry of the famous Harry Denton’s Starlight Room in San Francisco. Inspired by a panini bar he’d visited in Italy, Denton opened his first restaurant, ´ino, in the West Village in 1998. The next year came Lupa, a project with partners Joe Bastianich and Mario Batali, who Denton had met while working at Po. Denton teamed up with the Batali/Bastianich duo again to open Otto, and then returned to his own projects, opening ´inoteca on the Lower East Side and most recently Bar Milano in the Gramercy area. Though less recognizable than his orange-clogged cohort, Denton been significant for the city’s neighborhood dining scene, and his low-key, high-quality upscale casual Italian restaurants have made an indelible mark.

PASTRY CHEF: Sandro Micheli, Adour

At the young age of 31, Micheli has already run Alain Ducasse’s pastry kitchen for 3 years–first at The Essex House and now at Adour. Like the restaurant’s interior, his desserts are best described as beautiful, elegant, and whimsical. The best are symphonies of textures–soft, dense, crunchy, and creamy. In particularly beautiful dish, buttery brioche croutons and warm poured chocolate break a hole in a gold leaf and chocolate ceiling to reveal dark chocolate sorbet and coffee granita lurking beneath. His Exotic Fruit Vacherin is a delight to see, and even more delightful to dip a spoon into. Micheli began his training in France at age 14, and by 20 was working at Restaurant Paul Bocuse. He started in New York as a pastry sous chef at Daniel, where he worked for 5 years before joining Ducasse.

The Dishes that Clinched it:
- Contemporary Exotic Vacherin, Mango Marmalade, Coconut, Passionfruit Emulsion
- Dark Chocolate Sorbet, Coffee Granita, Caramelized Brioche Croutons

PASTRY CHEF: Vera Tong, Dovetail


Tong’s brioche bread pudding, a glorious ode to breakfast flavors topped with caramelized bananas and served with maple syrup-bacon garnish, will turn the best of friends into enemies when faced with the battle for the last bite. It’s on the homey end of a dessert spectrum that runs from delicate (a palate cleanser of rose petal and aloe gelee) to decadent (the bread pudding being a perfect example). Her desserts are mature–one incorporates avocado, chocolate, and strawberries–and completely approachable; at their best they feature exciting flavor combinations in accessible forms. Her current favorite flavor combo is strawberries, cheesecake, and beer, a combination which sums up her ability to think outside the box while keeping it approachable and fun. Before joining Fraser at Compass, Tong worked with Pino Luongo at Le Madri, with Cesare Casella at Beppe, and as a corporate pastry chef for Sushi Samba.

The Dishes that Clinched it:
- Brioche Bread Pudding with Bananas, Bacon Brittle, Rum-Vanilla Ice Cream
- Frozen Avocado Parfait with Strawberries, Chocolate, and Black Sesame

SOMMELIER: Ania Zaweija, Fiamma

Zaweija is one of NYC’s female power sommeliers, with three major three-star New York wine programs under her belt. She began at The Modern as assistant wine director and went on to open L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon as wine director, where she crafted a stellar list to match Robuchon/Suga’s opulent French-Japanese cuisine, and took the time to lead wine seminars for The Four Season’s staff as well. She went to Fiamma for Fabio Trabocchi’s takeover, and wasn’t content to rest on the laurels of the Italian list. She immediately branched out, adding Spanish, French, and new world labels, turning it into one of the city’s most compelling lists. Her logic is sound: she says Trabocchi’s food is not only Italian–it’s heavily French-influenced–so why shouldn’t the wine list be as dynamic as the menu?

MIXOLOGIST: Somer Perez, Royalton Hotel

Mature, creative cocktails aren't de rigueur in sprawling hotel lobby lounges, but Royalton Hotel's beverage manager Somer Perez is working to change that. Her's is a beverage program and cocktail philosophy worth emulating–it takes the ingredients and techniques of the country's best cocktail enclaves and applies them to a big, busy setting. In doing so, she's turned a Midtown hotel spot into a cocktail diamond in the rough, with a mature, seasonal, product-driven cocktail list. Think of it as an education in a glass: light, summery drinks incorporate muddled New Jersey cherries, house-made bitter lemon puree, and boutique Bluecoat gin, and teach their drinkers that there's more to the world of summer cocktails than mojitos. Perez learned the ropes at Beacon with Audrey Saunders and Dale Degroff; as such her respect for the classics (the perfect Martini, for one) is evident as well.

The cocktails that clinched it:
- The Velvet Rope
- The Couture Cooler

MIXOLOGIST: Sam Ross, Milk & Honey, Little Branch

Of the drinks-driven speakeasies popping up in New York, Chicago, San Francisco, and a few other fortunate markets across the country, Milk & Honey is one of the most well-loved and renowned. Sam Ross, one of the mainstays of both M&H and its West Village sister, Little Branch, epitomizes the new-old bartender style that's bringing back classic combinations with modern twists. Ross loves bitters and Amaros and embraces Whiskey, Scotch, Champagne, and other previously underrepresented liquors in his drinks. His mature, deep-flavored concoctions speak of the Golden Age of the cocktail, and his slight twists are indicative of the new age that's well underway. He's spreading the love across the country, as well: he recently crafted the cocktail list at David Meyers' Sona and Comme ça in LA, bringing his "Penicillin" (fresh lemon, ginger, honey, two types of Scotch and crystallized ginger) to the west coast.

The cocktails that clinched it:
- The Penicillin
- The Rebel Champagne Flip

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